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Obama, Ubiquitous in Chief

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Once upon a time, there was a given. Now, a given is something we all know is so -- or at least something we all think we know is so.

A given, says the dictionary, is "something taken for granted." It's "a basic condition or assumption."

But what happens when a given turns out not to be a given after all?

"The President of the United States must not be overexposed."

That's a classic given. You walk up to anyone in Washington who makes a living in politics, and every one of them will tell you exactly the same thing:

"The President of the United States must not be overexposed."

There's a certain mystique about the presidency, they'll tell you. Put the president in the public eye too often, they'll tell you, and you'll diminish the mystique. To be effective, a president must husband his resources. He needs to dole out his spotlight time sparingly.

Tell it to Obama.

"Live, NOW," the computer screen announces. "Obama Discusses Transportation Infrastructure/High-Speed Rail."

"Live, NOW," the computer screen announces. "Obama Pledges Tax Reform Efforts."

"Live, NOW: Obama Explains Latest Moves on Economy."

Every day it's something else. But every day it's something.

So much for worrying about overexposure.

The current occupant of the Oval Office, it seems, doesn't much like staying in the Oval Office. He chafes at the presidential bubble, he keeps saying. But there's more to it than that.

He's the best thing he's got.

Team Obama has apparently figured out, the givens notwithstanding, that what worked to get him elected president -- plenty of events equals plenty of exposure equals plenty of comfort equals plenty of votes -- can also work to make him successful as president.

There have been "perpetual campaigns" before, but those always involved top aides huddled in some back room poring over poll numbers and trying to gin up support out in the country.

What's different this time is that they've added one more full-time tool to the tool kit -- the incumbent himself.

Barack Obama is the Obama administration's single best spokesman. Its Explainer in Chief. Its Reassurer in Chief. (You don't see Timothy Geithner out in public much anymore, do you?)

They tried it the other way. They tried listening to the givens.

Obama did spend a week or so out of the spotlight early on, early in the budget process, and what happened? The opponents grabbed control of the airwaves. Suddenly there was all this talk about silly-sounding spending. ("Monitoring Alaskan volcanoes? What a waste!") Suddenly the president's people were back on their heels.

They learn quickly, that bunch. That was the last time the president was backstage for any extended period. Instead, he's been in front of the cameras almost constantly.

There's a danger in it. A given becomes a given for a reason. The president could actually wear out his welcome, especially if his reassuring words start looking ill-matched to continuing waves of bad economic news. And of course, there are the people who can't stand the sight of him, and couldn't from Day One. They won't be any happier seeing him on their TV screens day after day.

But here's the thing about that: Those people won't like him any more by seeing him any less. They're the Unreachables. But when he is on the air, dominating news cycle after news cycle, they aren't. So expect him to keep at it, the givens be damned.

He's got his summits, his speeches, his dog, his Navy Seals.

They've got teabags.

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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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